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  • strict warning: Declaration of image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images::pre_render() should be compatible with views_handler_field::pre_render($values) in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/image/contrib/image_attach/image_attach_views_handler_field_attached_images.inc on line 112.
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  • strict warning: Non-static method views_many_to_one_helper::option_definition() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /home/addison/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_many_to_one.inc on line 25.
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December 22nd

Ben Franklin to stay in local hands after sale

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Ben Franklin, one of downtown Middlebury’s largest retailers, is on the verge of being sold to a local family that plans to maintain it as a general merchandise store.

Bonnie Gridley, a broker/owner of RE/MAX Champlain Valley Properties, confirmed the potential transaction last week. She said she could not disclose the names of the buyers until the deal is finalized, which is likely to occur by the end of next month.

“They plan to keep the business pretty much status quo,” Gridley said, though the new owners may introduce some new items in addition to the household wares, fabric, toys, dry goods, candy and other odds and ends that have drawn area shoppers to Ben Franklin for the past 71 years.

“We hope people will continue to support the store,” Gridley said.

News of the store’s acquisition by a local family and word that it will remain retail space should come as good news to many Middlebury residents and town officials who feared the sizable Main Street spot could by carved up into condominiums or otherwise taken out of the downtown shopping mix.

The Duffany family acquired the Ben Franklin store in 1943 and has owned it ever since. Larry Duffany confirmed back in July that he was putting the 63 Main St. business — as well as the building in which it is located — on the market.

A Web-based listing of the property indicated an asking price of $649,000 for the two-story building and the 0.12 acres on which it sits. The listing described the building as having 7,832 square feet of office/retail space, along with two “very spacious” apartments on the second floor.

It is currently the largest retail space on Main Street and employs around a dozen full- and part-time workers.

full story

December 18th

CSAC, other local agencies and programs hit hard by state budget cuts

By JOHN FLOWERS

MONTPELIER — The Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) will need to trim its budget by around $500,000 before the end of June as a result of fiscal year 2009 state budget rescissions, including a new round amounting to $19.7 million announced by the administration of Gov. James Douglas on Monday.

State officials warned that additional, deeper cuts are undoubtedly on the horizon for this fiscal year and next.

Locally, the latest cuts will not only hit CSAC but will also mean closure of the Addison County Probation and Parole field office and elimination of state funding for the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge, though that organization is expected to weather the storm thanks to a $1 million gift it received earlier this year.

State lawmakers were still sorting out the impact of the latest batch of cuts as the Addison Independent went to press on Wednesday. Casualties included:

•  50 state government positions statewide (15 of which are currently vacant). Affected agencies include Natural Resources, Buildings and General Services, Secretary of State’s office, Agriculture, Corrections, Governor’s office, Treasurer’s office and Veterans’ Affairs.

•  Pay cuts of 5 percent for non-union state workers now earning more than $60,000 per year.

•  A $766,000 reduction for the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., in second-semester college tuition grants.

•  A 4-percent cut for the state’s mental health agencies, including CSAC. Elimination of chiropractic service coverage for Medicaid recipients.

•  Elimination of cervical cancer vaccines for adult women.

•  Closure of state roadside rest areas (none in Addison County).

The rescissions also mean Vermonters and visitors will be seeing some higher fees for services, such as admission to state parks.

full story

UD-3 axe MUMS living arts class

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Voters in the seven towns that make up the Addison Central Supervisory Union school district on March 3 will cast ballots on a proposed UD-3 spending plan of $15,530,470 for the 2009-2010 academic year. The budge, which eliminates Middlebury Union Middle School’s (MUMS) living arts program, represents a 3.4 percent increase in spending over the current year.

The living arts program and its teacher ultimately became the casualties of Act 82, a new state law that requires school districts to hold two votes on their budgets if they exceed a state-prescribed inflationary threshold. The living arts program costs $88,000, an amount school administrators reluctantly recommended for paring in order to ensure the UD-3 budget would not trigger a second vote under Act 82.

“When we’re looking at the budget constraints we were facing this year, there was no way we could find those savings looking for $1,000 here or $1,000 there,” MUMS Principal Inga Duktig said. “It wasn’t an easy decision at all.”

A decision rendered even more difficult by another state law — Act 130, which requires that shared expenses be budgeted based on actual spending at elementary and secondary schools. That means UD-3 administrators have to reflect, in the 2009-2010 budget, around $280,000 in transportation costs that had previously been reflected in the supervisory union’s elementary school budgets. That accounting change is responsible for more than half of the 3.4 percent increase in the proposed UD-3 spending plan.

“It’s been a challenging budget for us,” ACSU Superintendent Lee Sease told the UD-3 board at a Tuesday evening meeting.

He added the 2009-2010 budget picture is likely not to get brighter in the near future. That’s because there is no more fund balance to apply to what is already a very conservative spending plan, according to Sease.

full story

Local construction work dries up, builders brace for lean times

By KATHRYN FLAGG

ADDISON COUNTY — After 30 years in the construction industry, Salisbury resident Jack Sheehan has seen economic ups and downs before — but never before has he seen business slow like it has this winter.

“Usually I’m about a year to a year and a half ahead,” he said, when it comes to plotting out his work schedule. “This year I have about half a year’s worth of work that I know of.”

And Sheehan, who runs a relatively small business with a crew of three other employees, is one of the lucky ones. He hasn’t had to lay off employees yet, and so far, he said, the spring looks promising.

Other local builders haven’t been so lucky, as construction around the region slows in the face of the national and statewide economic recession.

Work is tight in industries around the state. Unemployment in Vermont climbed to 5.2 percent of the workforce in October, up from 3.9 percent a year ago. (Statewide unemployment is still significantly lower than national unemployment, which at last count was a seasonally adjusted 6.7 percent.)

But with credit tight, and homeowners and business owners reluctant — or unable — to build, work is growing especially scarce for workers in the construction industry, which last year employed 5.5 percent of Vermont workers.

Slow business has forced some layoffs at businesses like Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Corp. and Apple Hill Design-Build.

Jim Pulver, the vice president of architecture at Bread Loaf, acknowledged that his company has had to downsize its workforce recently — though he wouldn’t say by how much.

The company, which specializes in industrial and commercial projects, is seeing fewer projects to bid on, Pulver said, as well as tighter budgets on projects that are moving forward.

full story

December 15th

OVUHS likely to cut staff and programs

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) board will present county voters on Town Meeting Day with a 2009-2010 spending plan of $3,322,229, representing a 3.8 percent increase compared to the current year’s plan.

The per-pupil, district assessment (tuition rate) for students choosing to attend the PHCC is projected to increase to 5 percent to $10,271 — a hike of $493 per student.

PHCC offers 12 technical and six foundational programs in such things as agriculture, automotive, health careers, culinary arts and theater. The majority of students come from Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools, plus some students come from other union high schools and private schools and some are homeschooled.

The $121,620 overall budget increase is primarily associated with contracted salary and benefit increases, according to PHCC Director Lynn Coale. He noted the career center board and its teachers recently ratified a new, four-year agreement through which faculty will receive the same health insurance benefits they currently enjoy, along with annual increase of 4 percent in base pay (see related story). The contract retroactively includes the concluded 2007-2008 academic year.

“We’re certainly seeing increases in salaries reflective of the new master agreement, and an increase in energy costs,” Coale said on Thursday, the day after the PHCC school board approved the 2009-2010 budget proposal.

The main budget drivers, according to Coale, include an additional $118,238 in salary expenses; another $18,908 for “supplies and materials” (largely fuel); and a bump of $21,188 for equipment — primarily new computers, which are part of a five-year technology improvement plan.

full story

Career Center pegs spending hike at 3.8 percent

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center (PHCC) board will present county voters on Town Meeting Day with a 2009-2010 spending plan of $3,322,229, representing a 3.8 percent increase compared to the current year’s plan.

The per-pupil, district assessment (tuition rate) for students choosing to attend the PHCC is projected to increase to 5 percent to $10,271 — a hike of $493 per student.

PHCC offers 12 technical and six foundational programs in such things as agriculture, automotive, health careers, culinary arts and theater. The majority of students come from Middlebury, Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools, plus some students come from other union high schools and private schools and some are homeschooled.

The $121,620 overall budget increase is primarily associated with contracted salary and benefit increases, according to PHCC Director Lynn Coale. He noted the career center board and its teachers recently ratified a new, four-year agreement through which faculty will receive the same health insurance benefits they currently enjoy, along with annual increase of 4 percent in base pay (see related story). The contract retroactively includes the concluded 2007-2008 academic year.

“We’re certainly seeing increases in salaries reflective of the new master agreement, and an increase in energy costs,” Coale said on Thursday, the day after the PHCC school board approved the 2009-2010 budget proposal.

The main budget drivers, according to Coale, include an additional $118,238 in salary expenses; another $18,908 for “supplies and materials” (largely fuel); and a bump of $21,188 for equipment — primarily new computers, which are part of a five-year technology improvement plan.

full story

Chatfield closing chapter in career as literacy champion

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Let’s get the puns out of the way early.

Ilsley Public Library Youth Services Librarian Carol Chatfield has decided to close a long chapter in her professional life. She is ready to turn the page on a lengthy career. Her performance speaks volumes about what a learned, compassionate person can do to instill good reading habits in children.

There.

Now we can focus on Chatfield’s career, which has been far from a punch line. It has been 37 fruitful years of delivering the gift of literacy to thousands of children throughout Addison and Rutland counties.

But all good things must come to an end, and Chatfield has decided to retire from her duties as a librarian at the end of this month.

“I feel like I want to do something different,” Chatfield said on Thursday, as children of all ages cavorted through the rows of books in the Ilsley Library’s youth section.

“Change is not necessarily bad; it can be revitalizing,” she said.

Chatfield learned that first-hand — back in 1970, when she decided she had had her fill of her first career: Teaching. She’d been working as a French instructor at Waterbury Elementary School, but wasn’t happy about having only 15-minute sessions with her groups of students. Moreover, the children she was teaching had to take beginners’ French classes all over again when they began middle school.

“The idea of (teaching French) and then having to say, ‘I’m sorry, it doesn’t count, you have to go back to square one when you go to middle school’ didn’t appeal to me,” Chatfield said.

So, after one year as a teacher, Chatfield had come to a professional crossroads. She knew she wanted to continue working with children, but women of that era, it seemed, became either teachers or nurses — vocations in which she had no substantial interest.

full story

December 11th

Santa's biggest fan: Cornwall woman collects 500 St. Nicks

By JOHN FLOWERS

CORNWALL — Santa Claus will have a busy agenda on Dec. 24, but he may not be able to resist spending a little extra time at the Tillmans’ home in Cornwall this Christmas Eve.

There, he will find a veritable Santa “shrine” — a collection of hundreds of Santa dolls, figurines and other Saint Nick likenesses that Carol Tillman has avidly collected during the past three decades.

At last count, Tillman had assembled a cheerful legion of more than 500 Santas that she dutifully takes out of warm-weather hibernation each Thanksgiving for display around her home when the window panes start getting frosty.

She tenderly places as many of them as she can on the limited perches she has in her home, including on shelves in her small Moonlit Alpacas retail store off Route 125. It’s impossible not to feel the holiday spirit while under the gaze of the many rosy-cheeked, cherubic St. Nicks, each one a little different than the other.

Tillman confesses to being a little incredulous every time she pulls her collection out of mothballs. Even she has a tough time keeping track of where all the jolly men came from.

“It’s a question, when you have to move them, you really ask yourself,” she said with a chuckle.

But she vividly remembers her first Santa, which she received as a gift when she was 18. It’s a German “smoker” — a pipe toting Santa in which one can burn incense.

“That kind of started it, and it went from there,” said Tillman.

Each ensuing year, there was no mystery about what was prominently featured on Tillman’s Christmas list. She wanted Santas, Santas and more Santas — and her friends and family have dutifully obliged.

Tillman has also picked out her own share of Santas, paying from a few bucks to several hundred dollars for creations that meet her fancy.

full story

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